Horokanai Higashikotanbetsu-yama Ski Touring


Posted on Mar 12, 2020
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Posted on Mar 12, 2020

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Reading time: 2 min


2.5 hours





Highest point



Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds

Best season

Kiritachi Pass (霧立峠, 387m) is one of the coldest, snowiest low-elevation passes in Hokkaido. Directly to the south of the pass, accessed via an easy ridge-line traverse, is an unnamed peak, known locally as Higashikotanbetsu-yama (東古丹別山, 615m). From the peak, there is excellent skiing on westerly and northerly aspects, belying the peak's low stature. The vertical drop on each lap is not much more than 200m, but invest in a good skin-track, and a whole wealth of terrain becomes accessible for a day's worth of skiing for the enterprising ski tourer.

We visited this route on Feb 24, 2020

Many thanks to Yamano-makochan for the route (here).

Route Map

Need to know details


Higashikotanbetsu-yama sits to the south of Kiritachi Pass on the border of Horokanai Town and Tomamae Town in northern Hokkaido, about 1.5hrs north of Asahikawa city. This route from Kiritachi Pass to the summit of Higashikotanbetsu-yama starts from the car parking area at the pass, here.

General notes

Like most ski touring routes in Horokanai (Japan’s coldest and lowest population density town), this route to Higashikotanbetsu-yama is accessed via a road pass. Unlike other pass-based routes in Horokanai, however, this route gains altitude nicely on the way up, allowing for some great downhill skiing, even on the return from the peak. Out of all the routes in Horokanai, this route may have the most reliable snowpack – it starts relatively high, and this northern corner of Horokanai gets some of the area’s coldest temperatures.



Route details

Starting from the Kiritachi Pass parking area (here), head slightly up towards the pass before climbing up onto a narrow, heavily wooded spur to the right. This somewhat cramped spur isn’t steep, but you’ll be weaving through spindly young-growth trees for about 600m before finally coming to the base of the wide ridge to the the summit. This ridge is a slope with well-spaced old-growth trees – a short but absolute joy of a blast on the descent. The actual summit is a relatively low-key affair. It’s broad and featureless, with no summit sign. From the summit, there is excellent skiing on slopes to the west and northwest. This slope is well worth investing in a good central skin track, and doing a few laps. On the return, climb back up to the summit, and return the way you came to the car park.

Route Timing
Up | 1.5hrs
Down | 0.5hrs

Expect about 1.5 hrs from the carpark at the pass to the summit of Higashikotanbetsu-yama, and another 3o minutes back down. Each lap from the summit on the northwestern face of the peak will take about 45 minutes, including climbing time.


Public transport:

This route is not accessible by public transport.

By car: 

There is plenty of parking space in the parking area at Kiritachi Pass, here.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Kiritachitoge (霧立峠) – map no. NL-54-12-15-4

NOTE: The official 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

Snow and route safety

Horokanai is well known for its bone-chilling cold temperatures. Plan accordingly, with extra cold-weather gear.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Higashikotanbetsu-yama
Onsen nearby

Just down the road is the excellent Seiwa Onsen (せいわ温泉ルオント, location, 500yen) next to the michi-no-eki. At 500yen per person, there’s an attached soba restaurant, plus sauna and outdoor baths.

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore areas north of Sapporo together with a local certified guide, get in touch with either Wataru Nara or Takao Miyashita. They’re both born-and-bred Sapporo-based guides. They both cut their teeth on peaks including those in northern Hokkaido, have taken part in major international expeditions, and are senior figures in the local guiding and outdoor associations here in Hokkaido. See a full list of English-speaking Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA) guides on the HMGA website here

Yamano-Makochan's Video Report
Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

The previous day was a classic southwesterly storm that we’d seen far too many of this 2019/2020 winter season here in Hokkaido. 90km/h winds, damp snow. We went out for a ski anyway, making it almost to the treeline on the northerly side of the ridge up Bozu-yama (route overview here, from a couple of seasons back). It was nice to get out, but the snow was average.

Overnight, however, the temperatures dropped, and Horokanai was back to its cold, dry best. At Kiritachi Pass, the snow was cold, dry, and powdery. With all that new snow over the last couple of days, we were happy to see two splitboarders starting off from the carpark just as we were arriving. We would happily use their skin track most of the way to the summit.

We dug a pit on the westerly slope we planned to ski from the summit on. The previous few days had seen new snow and strong winds from the east, and we wanted to make sure the gorgeous-looking western slopes were safe to ski. A compression test suggested we were good to go – there was only a very slight movement on a 30cm barely-there layer on the 8th thwack from the shoulder. Everything was well and truly the right way up.

The first ski down was euphoric. Beautifully spaced trees. Consistent angle. Amazing new snow on a good consolidated base. A nice flat-ish run-out at the bottom of the slow. Everyone was buzzing.

I set the skin track back up to the summit. It was deep snow, but not too deep as to make the steep zig-zags too taxing.

The second lap was further to the skier’s left of the first. This gave us a longer run, but it wasn’t quite as consistent a gradient. Here and there were fun lumps and bumps, giving shots of steep bits here and there.

Lower down now than our original ski track up to the peak, I cut a long climbing traverse back to the skin track, and then quietly congratulated myself for such a nice escalator-like skin track for the return.

We had a long drive back to Sapporo ahead of us, so we left it at two laps. We still had the final downhill from near the summit, parallel to the skin track to enjoy.

I had a hunch that we might be able to have a nice long downhill run, without having to go back along the cramped spur we’d climbed up on at the start of the route. We might be able to skin up one of the steep gully walls, was my reasoning. Clearly the splitboarders had the same idea, as we ended up following their tracks all the way to a gully floor. Once again we were happy to be following in their footsteps, as breaking trail while making a climbing traverse round these gullies would have been hard work.

The actual route we took is at the very top of the GPS track in the embed below.

On the way back to Sapporo we dropped in at Chippubetsu Onsen (秩父別温泉, location, 500yen). It was a 1.5hr drive, but it was our only option on the way back to Sapporo, as the Seiwa Onsen in Horokanai was closed till April 2020 for renovation work.

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Higashikotanbetsu-yama, or others nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

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